On January 15, the entire Russian cabinet, including Prime Minister Dmitry A. Medvedev, resigned.
This was after President Vladimir Putin’s annual speech suggested constitutional changes that would create a new path to continue his more than 20 years grip on Russia, getting around his presidential term limit that will be reached in 2024. Putin justified this mass resignation by claiming the current government was not meeting his goals.
Putin’s proposal includes weakening the president’s power and giving more power to Russia’s lower house of parliament where Putin’s allies hold a majority. The lawmakers will choose the prime minister and cabinet members, powers which the president currently holds. The current prime minister is Mikhail V. Mishustin, an effective technocrat who headed Russia’s Federal Tax Service and who seems to have no political ambitions.
Putin claims these changes will strengthen democracy while critics worry these changes will increase his power. Putin is widely believed to have pulled the strings behind the scenes during Medvedev’s term. Putin in the past switched between the president and prime minister roles while giving each position more power accordingly. It is possible he may next become prime minister again, which would explain why he gave more power to the position.
Putin has said that the constitution needs to be approved by the country, but has not made it clear in what way this will be organized.
Putin has not simply seized power because he fears backlash from his people. Putin held two consecutive presidential terms, became prime minister, and then announced in 2011 that he would run for presidential election again. This was seen as rigging the election and triggered big street protests. Putin’s current approval rating has decreased (68 percent compared to 82 percent in April 2018) due to declining stands of living and decreased trust in government TV. Putin’s administration will likely paint the mass-resignations as Putin responding to their grievances.
Putin seems determined to lengthen his rule over Russia in a way that would create the least backlash.
By Sagarika Pal